Botswana breaks ranks with SADC

Sep 26, 2016

By Ed Cropley

GABORONE-BOTSWANA, home to the world’s largest elephant population, will break ranks with its southern African neighbours and not support bids at this week’s UN conference to allow sales of ivory, its president says.

Trade in ivory will take centre stage at the meeting of the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg form September 24 to October 5.

South Africa Environment Minister Edna Molewa said on Tuesday the Southern African Development Community would take a united stand and support Namibian and Zimbabwean proposals to be allowed to sell ivory, a coveted commodity used for carving and jewellery. But Botswana President Ian Khama has told Reuters his nation will not support loosening restrictions on the trade.

“We’re opposed to that … We need to keep elephants on Appendix I so that there’s no trade in ivory,” he said in an interview.

Animals listed on CITES’ Appendix I are afforded the highest level of protection and global trade in products derived from them is prohibited. Botswana will be joining Kenya and other African nations seeking to snuff the trade out completely.

Southern Africa’s elephant populations – with notable exceptions such as Mozambique – have grown or stabilised, in contrast to the rest of the continent, where the animals are being depleted by poachers to feed an illicit market with the bulk of the demand from Asia.

“We shouldn’t think that because we are doing well, we should be selfish,” Khama said.

Opponents are concerned that if CITES allows ivory to be traded, even from stockpiles and as a one-off, it would send a signal that it is socially acceptable, which could spur demand and further poaching.

“We are on this continent and if we support an act or a view that may see us have some temporary benefit but yet it encourages the illegal trade, it means other countries that are struggling with their populations are going to suffer,” Khama said.

“It means other countries that are struggling with their populations are going to suffer, and one day if their animals become extinct, and we still have viable populations, all the guns will now be focused on us,” he said.

There were signs that Botswana would abandon its neighbours at the World Conservation Congress of International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) held in Hawaii from September 1 to 10, where a resolution was passed calling for all governments to ban domestic trade in ivory. Botswana supported the ban, while Namibia, supported by Japan, led the countries calling for a continuation of domestic ivory trade with tight regulation.

Animal rights activists are expected to table a motion during the CITES conference on the uplisting of elephants and lions from Appendix II to Appendix I.

Appendix I category animals are those threatened with extinction.If the motion is accepted, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa with a huge population of elephants and lions would be banned from legally hunting and trading in ivory and other animal products.

Namibia’s Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said the country has submitted a number of proposals to the CITES conference.

“We have the interests of rural communities at heart, with elephants being one of the most important and valuable assets that we have to support community conservation programmes,” Shifeta said.

“There is no justification for a blanket closing of all markets, instead, a differentiation is needed between well-regulated markets such as in Japan and others that can for whatever reason not be regulated sufficiently and it is Namibia’s sovereign right and responsibility to decide over the use of our natural resources”.

He said the outcome of the IUCN 2016 “was very disappointing and points towards a similar potential outcome at CITES CoP17” where there is on the agenda a similar draft resolution on the closing of domestic ivory markets.

“We as a nation have been very consistent over the years on CITES issues, and we are led by our Constitution that requires us to use wildlife resources sustainably to the benefit of all our people. We have a good record of effectively implementing CITES and our wildlife populations are thriving,” Shifeta said.

“Very few countries can match us with these achievements.

We therefore call on other countries to support our proposals and not obstruct us.”

Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa will call on an unlikely ally – the European Union.

The EU Head of Delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador, Philippe van Damme, says the European bloc supported sustainable trade in ivory that benefitted communities.

“The EU has always said that trophy hunting is part of this use of natural resources on two conditions,” he said.

“One, that trophy hunting is on a sustainable way that has to be sustainable in a scientific way.

Secondly, that trophy hunting should benefit communities and that is why the EU has introduced a proposal to strengthen international regulations around trophy hunting not to prohibit trophy hunting.”

He continued: “The international regulations so far have a couple of loopholes which do not guarantee the sustainability of trophy hunting and then guarantee that the benefits of trophy hunting will be shared in a fair way to communities involved which makes it sustainable in the long run.

“And since there is an international public opinion which is sometimes hostile because precisely they will refer to that the way trophy hunting is managed is not sustainable — the way we proposed this regulation is precisely to preserve trophy hunting as a viable source of revenue in countries like Zimbabwe which of course has potential. Zimbabwe has been discussing this resolution at SADC level.”

Ambassador Van Damme said the EU would push for this resolution to be adopted at CoP17.

Zimbabwe’s Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said: “If we do not convince the rural communities to see value in living with these animals, then there would be no (animal conservation) success story to talk about.” – Reuters

4 Responses

  1. It’s clear a lift under any guise at this stage would be detrimental, the knock on affect / unforeseen consequences could and most likely will have a negative global affect, the stock piles should be burnt, they are just temptation waiting in any guise, while they are seen to be available people will seek to get their hands on them.

  2. Another bad and ill- consideredinterference by the EU. Hopefully they will be banished from Italy in December and stop them destroying the integrity, tradition and value of centuries-long fine products from that country.

  3. The IUCN’s African Elephant working group revealed the current status of elephant on the African Continent tonight at a side event at CITES CoP17. The following is from their most recent (2015) findings, compared to their last sensus in 2006: South Africa and Namibia’s elephant populations are growing. Zambia and Uganda’s numbers are stable. Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania’s populations are declining. Botswana banned hunting of big game in 2014 and Tanzania and Zimbabwe cannot export ivory to the USA. The countries with growing populations are free to trade their well managed elephant that is LEGALLY hunted and exported under Appendix II. Those whose numbers are in decline are restricted in some way or another to do so. Ask yourself WHY? What or who is making the difference?

  4. Botswana is home to the core part of the world’s largest mega-population of elephants which is shared by Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Collectively, they probably number well in excess of 300 000 animals; and their respective subpopulations all grossly exceed the sustainable elephant carrying capacities of their habitats. Indeed, these large numbers of elephants have been consistently over-utilising their habitat resources for the last four decades and more. Consequently, for a very long time, they have been causing a perpetual and progressive degradation of their sanctuaries’ biological diversities; and they have been converting their habitats into deserts. This state of affairs is unacceptable, unsustainable and a recipe for disaster.

    The disaster will happen when the elephants have eaten themselves out of house and home and
    they thus cause their own extinction. Regrettably, by the time that happens, they will have long
    ago caused the local extinctions of most of the flora and fauna of their own ecosystems.

    The proposal that CITES should change the status of the African elephant by placing the species on the (endangered) Appendix I list, has no validity. As long as the southern African elephant populations remain numerous, fecund and excessive, this species cannot be classified as “endangered”. Nor is it facing extinction.

    It is not surprising that President Ian Khama of Botswana has chosen not to align himself with Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in their bid to get CITES to allow them to sell ivory on the world market. He is purported to be, in his personal capacity, on the board of an international animal rights group that is based in the USA – which, like all other animal rights organisations, has as its principle objective the abolition of all animal uses by man. This state of affairs is bad news for Botswana. It is bad news for Africa.

    The fact that President Khama disapproves of the sale if ivory – and recently stopped all hunting in his country – may satisfy his own parochial needs but it ignores the needs of his people – whom he has pledged to serve! Indeed, it is indicative of their dissatisfaction that, during this last week, a delegation of his northern district councillors called for a high level meeting with the government minister for wildlife affairs, Tshekedi Khama (the president’s brother) at which, they have made it known, they will be demanding a resumption in big game trophy hunting in Botswana (Ngami Times). This is indicative of the problem that faces Africa – and the responses that can be expected – when First World Nations continue to arrogantly dictate to African states what they can and cannot do with their own wildlife resources.

    The wildlife resources of Africa, through CITES, are being treated as though they are a “commons resource” – like the whales in the open oceans which have no masters. But that is not the case. The wild animals of Africa are owned by the sovereign states in which they live; and, as the proposals in CoP17 indicate, many sovereign states are getting restless and distrustful of the intentions of the convention; and resentful of the manner in which it is being administered and directed. Many have come to realise that the only way they can recover (from the convention) their sovereign rights to manage their own wildlife resources as they see fit, is to resign from CITES. The costs of such an action, however, would be heavy – financial retribution – withdrawal of aid packages – from powerful western states that want to maintain the status quo. So many African states are in a bind. They are damned if they do and they are damned if they don’t.

    Many of the sovereign state members are also not happy about the manner in which the animal rightist NGOs at CITES seem to be gaining ever more control over the convention’s purpose and decisions; and they blame them for the convention’s continual drift away from its primary purpose – which is to REGULATE the wildlife trade – and towards the total prohibition of trade. This is reflected in your article to which this response refers – and in the bulk of the NGO’s propaganda pamphlets at the convention. Many states are asking: why would an NGO that is dedicated to the prohibition of man’s use of animals (including disapproval of the wildlife trade) want to accredit itself to an organisation that is designed to REGULATE the wildlife trade – if not to sabotage the convention’s chief objective? And those states that see wildlife as a “wild product of the land”, and which want to sustainably harvest their wildlife resources in a sustainable manner for the benefit of their people, are very uncomfortable about the fact that CITES decisions relating to their sustainable use programmes are so heavily weighted against them obtaining a satisfactory CITES concession.

    The fact that there is an apparent “international public opinion” that is hostile to trophy hunting and the wildlife trade, should have no bearing whatsoever on the CITES decisions on these matters. That hostility was generated SOLELY by animal rightist propaganda and it should have no influence on the CITES decision making process. CITES was created primarily to help its sovereign state members to facilitate and to “properly” execute its international trade practices. Its purpose is not to “accommodate” animal rightist propaganda – much of which is contrived and not true – nor to block the passage of legitimate wildlife trade (or sustainable wildlife use) programmes.

    Those southern African countries which now WANT to reopen the trade in ivory – having demonstrated that they have managed their elephant populations in a manner that is acceptable to, and approved by, both CITES and the IUCN – consider that they are being abused. They are being penalised unjustly because there are countries elsewhere in Africa that have proved that their governance is so bad that they cannot control poaching and because of this fact THEIR elephant populations are in decline.

    We must also ask the question: How will adding unneeded and unwanted extra protection of Southern Africa’s elephant populations help those that are in decline in West Africa? THAT isn’t how wildlife management works. Each population has to be “managed” according to its own merits! And if CITES insists on not allowing southern Africa’s totally SAFE elephant populations to be managed according to their respective merits, then CITES is forcing the states of southern Africa to MIS-manage their elephants.

    I believe that if the CITES secretariat does not address itself to these problems in a fair and equitable manner – and that CITES does not remove the participation of the Accredited animal rightists NGOs at CITES, the convention will disintegrate and all its fine potentials will be lost to civilisation.

    Please identify me as your respondent.

    Ron Thomson.
    President. The True Green Alliance.

September 2016
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